FEATURE-From sex workers to bakers, professional Twitter users fear losses


Data security and hate speech among top concerns


Some entrepreneurs favor other platforms


Musk says Twitter usage at an all-time high

By Kim Harrisberg and Adam Smith

JOHANNESBURG/LONDON, Nov 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A bi Oyewole has created a thriving online business selling badges, stickers and jewelry by promoting her designs on Twitter from her home in Canada during the pandemic.

Now she fears losing many of her 25,000 followers if users abandon the platform due to the many changes introduced by Elon Musk since he took over the social media company.

Following a $44 billion takeover by Musk in October, half of the platform’s staff was laid off – including specialists from ethics teams and engineers, verification of paid accounts came and went and content paid video was offered.

Freelancers and small businesses who use Twitter as a marketing platform – from online sex workers in Britain to home-bakers in South Africa – fear shake-ups to the platform could disrupt their incomes.

“Business owners don’t know what to expect,” said Oyewole, 32, who started the business while awaiting home disability benefits in Calgary during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every day there is always something happening, and it looks like the site is collapsing,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a video call.

The platform, which has 238 million daily active users, is a key advertising medium for businesses of all sizes, with around 82% of global businesses surveyed by the Content Marketing Institute in 2021 using Twitter.

As of now, there are no estimates or consistent data on whether the number of users has dropped since Musk took over. He said earlier this week that usage “just hit another all-time high.”

If Twitter’s algorithms detect an ad for a small business, they can boost its visibility without the added expense of a website or marketing team, said Charles Isidi, startup advisor for dozens of African businesses.

“(But) if a company is going to spend (money) on advertising, Twitter needs to make a strong business case that they’ll earn more than that, while feeling safe on the platform,” Isidi said. .

A Twitter spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


For British online sex worker Countess Diamond, Twitter has been vital as it is one of the main social networks that does not ban adult content, although she has faced restrictions.

More than 34,000 people have visited Diamond’s website in the past month, and the vast majority have come from Twitter or through her Linktree – a website directory platform – which she uses on her Twitter account. , she said.

Content produced by Diamond, 34, and her two staff members is often banned on the platform, meaning her Twitter handle doesn’t show up in searches, she said.

While Musk has said that under his leadership some, if not all, accounts that have been restricted will see the restrictions lifted, it’s unclear when that will happen.

Musk also promised Twitter would be better for content creators, offering paid long-form video that will give creators a bigger cut in revenue than YouTube, in addition to the platform’s existing toggle feature or Super Follows.

But Diamond is not convinced.

“It would be amazing not to have to leave the platform, but there are such arbitrary rules when it comes to terms of service,” she said.

Even if the rules were clearer, key members of Twitter’s security and engineering team leaving the company have raised doubts about its security, and it doesn’t want to risk putting its employees at risk if data are disclosed, she said.

“I don’t think that will be a positive thing for sex workers and people whose content is already marginalized in an online sphere,” Diamond said.


Rights groups are also concerned about a possible upsurge in hate speech, with the loss of specialist rights and ethics teams, and reports of deep cuts to regional headquarters, including in Asia and Africa.

Musk said “Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged,” but business owners are concerned that the platform is no longer a safe or desirable site for sales.

“I just don’t feel safe on Twitter these days,” said Davy Tsopo, a former cleaner turned baker, whose online business took off in Johannesburg during the pandemic lockdown.

“Every time I log on I feel like I’m walking into the desert,” said Tsopo, a Zimbabwean, who said hate speech towards foreign nationals in South Africa had made the situation unbearable. access to the platform, even before Musk fired the ethicists.

Tsopo said he would prefer to continue selling mainly on other platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, adding that the possible reappearance of the $8 verification payment would be another blow to micro businesses.


Twitter has also been a lifeline for Rwanda’s Edgard Ntamvutsa, whose small carpentry business has racked up hundreds of orders across the country since he tweeted a photo of a handmade laptop stand that he designed for his wife during lockdown.

“It’s gone viral,” the 32-year-old said, adding that while the platform’s future was uncertain and sales had recently plummeted, he was going to hedge his bets and stick around just in case. they would resume.

Musk said this week that he hopes to complete an organizational restructuring and eventually find a new executive to lead the company.

But Oyewole, who relies on her Twitter followers for the festive season when most sales take place, fears that small businesses of marginalized entrepreneurs — like LGBTQ+ or disabled users like her — will suffer the most from the overhaul. from Twitter by Musk.

“It’s life or death for a lot of people, it’s how we eat and pay our bills,” she said.

“It shouldn’t be up to a random billionaire to change things without considering those affected in society.”

Originally published at: https://www.context.news/big-tech/from-sex-workers-to-bakers-twitter-business-users-fear-losses (Reporting by Kim Harrisberg @kimharrisberg in Johannesburg and Adam Smith in London. Editing by Rina Chandran and Helen Popper. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit https://www.context.news)

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